Some days I wake up and it takes me a while to realise I am still in Finland. Voices float up from the street and then it dawns on me, ‘Oh yeah, I’m in Finland. And everyone speaks Finnish.’
I’m also reminded by things around our house, as although ours may not be a typical Finnish home, I’d say it is pretty standard for most Helsinki apartments.
Here’s what is different to our home in New Zealand:
There are two front doors, about five inches apart and the first front door has a slot in it for the mail to be delivered through.
Just inside the apartment are two open wardrobes for hanging jackets and putting shoes. As winter approaches this becomes even more important and now holds gumboots, gloves, hats and scarves too.
There is a thermometer just outside the window near the front door. As winter approaches we check it every day before we go out so we dress for the weather and not our heated apartment.
There are heaters in every room that are turned on by the building manager once the temperature drops below a certain level for a few days in a row.
The washing machine is in the bathroom.
There’s a sauna off the bathroom.
The pipes in the bathroom are exposed.
The windows are triple-glazed and there are two doors out onto our balcony to keep the cold out. In summer we had the balcony open but you can also pull the windows across to make it more like a conservatory.
This photo was taken before we unpacked but is pretty much how our balcony looks again as the plants and armchairs have been brought inside for winter.
We’ve seen dramatic changes in the view from the balcony in the five months we’ve lived in this apartment.
You may notice that every apartment has external ladders too, which I believe is to do with removing snow from the roof. There are not many chimneys either, although Joulupukki (Santa Claus) comes in the front door on Christmas Eve so no worries there.
Oh yes, and there’s always this: the Finnish flag which is raised by each building manager on public holidays and special anniversaries. My brother-in-law also told me the flag will be raised to half-mast if someone in the building has died – a good time, he says, to call in if you are looking for a place to rent!
Update: how could I forget this??